Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Parent’s Act of Love

Psychiatrists have long equated the reluctance to write a will, prepare an advance directive or estate plan, with fear of dying.

Who wants to think about planning for death? We have to confront our mortality. No more illusions that it won’t happen to us. We have to face giving up our possessions and power. We have to deal with uncomfortable subjects like aging, illness, death, inheritance and a host of other things we’ve managed to avoid thinking about.

Having the ‘money conversation’ is rarely ‘just about money’. It’s also about family dynamics, mistakes, regrets, guilt, and a host of other issues. Children feel morbid, greedy and intrusive asking their parents questions about money and death. The parents don’t want to start conversations about ‘touchy’ subjects either. The result – people procrastinate, hoping for the best. Hope is not a strategy. It’s a procrastination tool and most often, it doesn’t work.

Click the buy the book button:

Check out the guide  for opening the conversations that matter between parents and children.Follow the check lists for what parents need to put in place so children aren’t burdened with a financial and legal mess after parents die.

It’s truly an act of love for parents to get their affairs in order.

A Most Beautiful Organic Wedding

Of course you notice their beauty – the groom tall, lean, golden in the California sun, he in formal grey, but with the whimsy of suspenders, she, demure in flowing waves of white chiffon, baby tears woven in her hair and her bouquet.

What really strikes you is how comfortable they are with each other, best friends who also happen to be bathed in romantic love. Then you notice their tenderness, the softness with which they gaze upon each other. You watch them talk, the tenderness and attention they show each other, how proud they seem of the other, how gentle, yet how strong and steadfast they have been in the fours years since they first met and grew in love.

They described it to me as an “organic” wedding, a ceremony that grew naturally from their sentimental love of family heirlooms and their sensitivity to the joining of two families with different religious tradtions.

They planned for their wedding to be outdoors in their beloved wilderness, where they could share their love of birdsong and nature with their invited guests.Their friends pitched tents and talked until the wee hours.  Their parents and grandparents, lodged in comfortable cabins, perhaps dreaming of how different things were when they were married.

When cheers of mazeltov rang out as the pastor pronounced them husband and wife, I couldn’t help thinking how lovely a wedding can be when it truly includes the shared philosophy of bride and groom. The food was simple, delicious and abundant. Because they did so much of the work themselves, they began the  process of building something together from the start.

I didn’t fully understand what organic meant until after the wedding, but the effect is clear when you see it in action. Something that’s organic is whole because nothing artificial is added. It’s an ‘organic’ event that celebrates the uniqueness of a wedding, but reflects the values and visions of the couple.

Long life and happiness to my granddaughter and her beloved husband.


No Flowers for Mother’s Day

Legions of adult children spend thousands dollars and hours on the therapist’s couch, reviewing, ruminating and regurgitating things their parents did or didn’t do.

I’m not including parents here who were intentionally abusive, either physically, verbally, sexually or emotionally. I’m talking about well meaning parents who had the best intentions, did the best they could, yet still get blamed for the things that go wrong in the life of their adult child.

Unfortunately, parent blaming has a willing ally in therapy circles. In an unscientific profession that can only speculate about cause and outcome, assigning blame to parents is easy, irresponsible and widespread. The 50 minute hour does not include the parents, so the  therapist gets a one-sided view of people who never get the chance to respond.

It requires a truly ethical therapist to say to a client  ” I haven’t met your parents, but isn’t it possible they did the best they could? It’s time for you to take responsibility for your role in the relationship. After all, you’re an adult now.”

To all you garden variety mothers who tried your best and it wasn’t good enough, you who won’t be hearing from your children this Mother’s Day, I can’t send you flowers, but rest assured that you’re not alone.


Talking with a Lawyer

It can feel intimidating to talk to a lawyer. I’ve learned the hard way that if your lawyer can’t explain things to you as if you are a smart 14-year-old, you should find a lawyer who can. A lawyer is supposed to make your life easier, not more stressful.

Credentials count, but this is about more than education and experience . The law is complicated enough; you need someone who can explain things to you in addition to being qualifed to advise you. In the event of divorce, or the death of a spouse, you will be working closely with the lawyer. You want things explained clearly to you because you’ll be emotionally upset. A lawyer’s jargon and lack of ability to communicate clearly will upset you even more.

For example, I couldn’t work with someone who is patronizing. Consulting a lawyer is already an unequal situation. You have a problem. You need a solution. You don’t need someone making you feel even more vulnerable. Many lawyers think that reassuring and protecting a woman is doing her a favor. I call that the ‘Don’t worry about a thing, dear’ attitude that keeps women from being able to make decisions. Many women want their lawyer to take care of everything. I’m not one of them.

I want a lawyer who listens, doesn’t interrupt me, doesn’t flood me with jargon,and shows up on time. I want information, an explanation of options, pitfalls, and costs.

Anyone out there know someone like that?

The Gift of the Ordinary

The poetry of life lives in the daily rituals, the ordinary activities we often do mindlessly without appreciating how lucky we are to be doing them. Not me, not ever again.

One of my favorite ordinary things is making coffee in the morning. Grinding and inhaling the aroma of the beans, filling the coffee maker with water, emptying the ground beans into the filter, and pushing the brew button. How much more ordinary can you get?

Ever since my husband died suddenly in an accident years ago, I’ve been aware that ordinary events can turn extraordinary in a second. The Boston bombings, 9/11, a plane or car crash, a fatal heart attack, a drive by shooting or the diagnosis of a terminal illness. These sudden events, woven into the tapestry of daily life, are reminders that the ordinary is a gift.

One of my favorite poets celebrates the ordinary. Jane Kenyon, who died of leukemia at the  age of forty-seven, understood the importance of celebrating the dailiness of life.


I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.